President Obama's speech in Berlin today intentionally echoed his 2008 speech in the city as a candidate. But, perhaps unintentionally, the themes in each speech were also largely the same: the war on terror, international relations, climate. An analysis of the content of each speech, however, shows how the President's priorities have (and haven't) changed.
To figure out how Obama's focus has shifted, we went over each of the two speeches — the one given on July 29, 2008, when he was a candidate, and the one he gave in front of the Brandenburg Gate today. We broke out sections by topic, and counted the words in each. (You can see them, color-coded, at the bottom of the article.)
What we found is a reflection of Obama's changed position and the shift in the politics of the moment. Here's how much more or less of the themes he used in 2008 were present in 2013. There was more talk about the global economy, more about equality, much more about the NSA's surveillance tools. And the President offered far less, now that he's not a candidate hoping to prove his foreign policy credentials, on international politics and the history of Germany and Europe.
Here's how each topic compares as a percentage of each year's speech. The two topics Obama discussed the most today were nuclear weapons — given his announcement of a new push toward disarmament — and the economy. In 2008, as mentioned, the topic was the world — and, of course, the now less-politically-important wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We even, risking ridicule, made word clouds, showing at a glance what words Obama used. This year, more justice. In 2008, more imperatives and more "world."
2013 Berlin speech
2008 Berlin speech
Here are the two speeches, with the color-coding. You'll notice that the rhetoric at the beginning and end are largely the same: The United States and Germany are partners. We were in 2008, we are now.
Topics: terror nuclear weapons Iraq and Afghanistan climate Obama German-US relations internationalism economy poverty history equality NSA surveillance
2008: "A World that Stands as One"
Via Huffington Post
Thank you to the citizens of Berlin and to the people of Germany. Let me thank Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Steinmeier for welcoming me earlier today. Thank you Mayor Wowereit, the Berlin Senate, the police, and most of all thank you for this welcome.
I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before. Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen - a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world.
I know that I don't look like the Americans who've previously spoken in this great city. The journey that led me here is improbable. My mother was born in the heartland of America, but my father grew up herding goats in Kenya. His father - my grandfather - was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.
At the height of the Cold War, my father decided, like so many others in the forgotten corners of the world, that his yearning - his dream - required the freedom and opportunity promised by the West. And so he wrote letter after letter to universities all across America until somebody, somewhere answered his prayer for a better life.
That is why I'm here. And you are here because you too know that yearning. This city, of all cities, knows the dream of freedom. And you know that the only reason we stand here tonight is because men and women from both of our nations came together to work, and struggle, and sacrifice for that better life.
Ours is a partnership that truly began sixty years ago this summer, on the day when the first American plane touched down at Templehof.
On that day, much of this continent still lay in ruin. The rubble of this city had yet to be built into a wall. The Soviet shadow had swept across Eastern Europe, while in the West, America, Britain, and France took stock of their losses, and pondered how the world might be remade.
This is where the two sides met. And on the twenty-fourth of June, 1948, the Communists chose to blockade the western part of the city. They cut off food and supplies to more than two million Germans in an effort to extinguish the last flame of freedom in Berlin.
The size of our forces was no match for the much larger Soviet Army. And yet retreat would have allowed Communism to march across Europe. Where the last war had ended, another World War could have easily begun. All that stood in the way was Berlin.
And that's when the airlift began - when the largest and most unlikely rescue in history brought food and hope to the people of this city.
The odds were stacked against success. In the winter, a heavy fog filled the sky above, and many planes were forced to turn back without dropping off the needed supplies. The streets where we stand were filled with hungry families who had no comfort from the cold.
But in the darkest hours, the people of Berlin kept the flame of hope burning. The people of Berlin refused to give up. And on one fall day, hundreds of thousands of Berliners came here, to the Tiergarten, and heard the city's mayor implore the world not to give up on freedom. "There is only one possibility," he said. "For us to stand together united until this battle is won...The people of Berlin have spoken. We have done our duty, and we will keep on doing our duty. People of the world: now do your duty...People of the world, look at Berlin!"
People of the world - look at Berlin!
Look at Berlin, where Germans and Americans learned to work together and trust each other less than three years after facing each other on the field of battle.
Look at Berlin, where the determination of a people met the generosity of the Marshall Plan and created a German miracle; where a victory over tyranny gave rise to NATO, the greatest alliance ever formed to defend our common security.
Look at Berlin, where the bullet holes in the buildings and the somber stones and pillars near the Brandenburg Gate insist that we never forget our common humanity.
People of the world - look at Berlin, where a wall came down, a continent came together, and history proved that there is no challenge too great for a world that stands as one.
Sixty years after the airlift, we are called upon again. History has led us to a new crossroad, with new promise and new peril. When you, the German people, tore down that wall - a wall that divided East and West; freedom and tyranny; fear and hope - walls came tumbling down around the world. From Kiev to Cape Town, prison camps were closed, and the doors of democracy were opened. Markets opened too, and the spread of information and technology reduced barriers to opportunity and prosperity. While the 20th century taught us that we share a common destiny, the 21st has revealed a world more intertwined than at any time in human history.
The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope. But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers - dangers that cannot be contained within the borders of a country or by the distance of an ocean.
The terrorists of September 11th plotted in Hamburg and trained in Kandahar and Karachi before killing thousands from all over the globe on American soil.
As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya.
Poorly secured nuclear material in the former Soviet Union, or secrets from a scientist in Pakistan could help build a bomb that detonates in Paris. The poppies in Afghanistan become the heroin in Berlin. The poverty and violence in Somalia breeds the terror of tomorrow. The genocide in Darfur shames the conscience of us all.
In this new world, such dangerous currents have swept along faster than our efforts to contain them. That is why we cannot afford to be divided. No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone. None of us can deny these threats, or escape responsibility in meeting them. Yet, in the absence of Soviet tanks and a terrible wall, it has become easy to forget this truth. And if we're honest with each other, we know that sometimes, on both sides of the Atlantic, we have drifted apart, and forgotten our shared destiny.
In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common. In America, there are voices that deride and deny the importance of Europe's role in our security and our future. Both views miss the truth - that Europeans today are bearing new burdens and taking more responsibility in critical parts of the world; and that just as American bases built in the last century still help to defend the security of this continent, so does our country still sacrifice greatly for freedom around the globe.
Yes, there have been differences between America and Europe. No doubt, there will be differences in the future. But the burdens of global citizenship continue to bind us together. A change of leadership in Washington will not lift this burden. In this new century, Americans and Europeans alike will be required to do more - not less. Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity.
That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another.
The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand. The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.
We know they have fallen before. After centuries of strife, the people of Europe have formed a Union of promise and prosperity. Here, at the base of a column built to mark victory in war, we meet in the center of a Europe at peace. Not only have walls come down in Berlin, but they have come down in Belfast, where Protestant and Catholic found a way to live together; in the Balkans, where our Atlantic alliance ended wars and brought savage war criminals to justice; and in South Africa, where the struggle of a courageous people defeated apartheid.
So history reminds us that walls can be torn down. But the task is never easy. True partnership and true progress requires constant work and sustained sacrifice. They require sharing the burdens of development and diplomacy; of progress and peace. They require allies who will listen to each other, learn from each other and, most of all, trust each other.
That is why America cannot turn inward. That is why Europe cannot turn inward. America has no better partner than Europe. Now is the time to build new bridges across the globe as strong as the one that bound us across the Atlantic. Now is the time to join together, through constant cooperation, strong institutions, shared sacrifice, and a global commitment to progress, to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It was this spirit that led airlift planes to appear in the sky above our heads, and people to assemble where we stand today. And this is the moment when our nations - and all nations - must summon that spirit anew.
This is the moment when we must defeat terror and dry up the well of extremism that supports it. This threat is real and we cannot shrink from our responsibility to combat it. If we could create NATO to face down the Soviet Union, we can join in a new and global partnership to dismantle the networks that have struck in Madrid and Amman; in London and Bali; in Washington and New York. If we could win a battle of ideas against the communists, we can stand with the vast majority of Muslims who reject the extremism that leads to hate instead of hope.
This is the moment when we must renew our resolve to rout the terrorists who threaten our security in Afghanistan, and the traffickers who sell drugs on your streets. No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan. But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO's first mission beyond Europe's borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone. The Afghan people need our troops and your troops; our support and your support to defeat the Taliban and al Qaeda, to develop their economy, and to help them rebuild their nation. We have too much at stake to turn back now.
This is the moment when we must renew the goal of a world without nuclear weapons. The two superpowers that faced each other across the wall of this city came too close too often to destroying all we have built and all that we love. With that wall gone, we need not stand idly by and watch the further spread of the deadly atom. It is time to secure all loose nuclear materials; to stop the spread of nuclear weapons; and to reduce the arsenals from another era. This is the moment to begin the work of seeking the peace of a world without nuclear weapons.
This is the moment when every nation in Europe must have the chance to choose its own tomorrow free from the shadows of yesterday. In this century, we need a strong European Union that deepens the security and prosperity of this continent, while extending a hand abroad. In this century - in this city of all cities - we must reject the Cold War mind-set of the past, and resolve to work with Russia when we can, to stand up for our values when we must, and to seek a partnership that extends across this entire continent.
This is the moment when we must build on the wealth that open markets have created, and share its benefits more equitably. Trade has been a cornerstone of our growth and global development. But we will not be able to sustain this growth if it favors the few, and not the many. Together, we must forge trade that truly rewards the work that creates wealth, with meaningful protections for our people and our planet. This is the moment for trade that is free and fair for all.
This is the moment we must help answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East. My country must stand with yours and with Europe in sending a direct message to Iran that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions. We must support the Lebanese who have marched and bled for democracy, and the Israelis and Palestinians who seek a secure and lasting peace. And despite past differences, this is the moment when the world should support the millions of Iraqis who seek to rebuild their lives, even as we pass responsibility to the Iraqi government and finally bring this war to a close.
This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands. Let us resolve that all nations - including my own - will act with the same seriousness of purpose as has your nation, and reduce the carbon we send into our atmosphere. This is the moment to give our children back their future. This is the moment to stand as one.
And this is the moment when we must give hope to those left behind in a globalized world. We must remember that the Cold War born in this city was not a battle for land or treasure. Sixty years ago, the planes that flew over Berlin did not drop bombs; instead they delivered food, and coal, and candy to grateful children. And in that show of solidarity, those pilots won more than a military victory. They won hearts and minds; love and loyalty and trust - not just from the people in this city, but from all those who heard the story of what they did here.
Now the world will watch and remember what we do here - what we do with this moment. Will we extend our hand to the people in the forgotten corners of this world who yearn for lives marked by dignity and opportunity; by security and justice? Will we lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty, shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS in our time?
Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words "never again" in Darfur?
Will we acknowledge that there is no more powerful example than the one each of our nations projects to the world? Will we reject torture and stand for the rule of law? Will we welcome immigrants from different lands, and shun discrimination against those who don't look like us or worship like we do, and keep the promise of equality and opportunity for all of our people?
People of Berlin - people of the world - this is our moment. This is our time.
I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people. We've made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions.
But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived - at great cost and great sacrifice - to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom - indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us - what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America's shores - is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please.
These are the aspirations that joined the fates of all nations in this city. These aspirations are bigger than anything that drives us apart. It is because of these aspirations that the airlift began. It is because of these aspirations that all free people - everywhere - became citizens of Berlin. It is in pursuit of these aspirations that a new generation - our generation - must make our mark on the world.
People of Berlin - and people of the world - the scale of our challenge is great. The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope. With an eye toward the future, with resolve in our hearts, let us remember this history, and answer our destiny, and remake the world once again.
Via the Wall Street Journal
Hello, Berlin! Thank you, Chancellor Merkel, for your leadership, your friendship, and the example of your life — from a child of the East to the leader of a free and united Germany.
As I've said, Angela and I don't exactly look like previous German and American leaders. But the fact that we can stand here today, along the fault line where a city was divided, speaks to an eternal truth: No wall can stand against the yearning of justice, the yearnings for freedom, the yearnings for peace that burns in the human heart.
Mayor Wowereit, distinguished guests, and especially the people of Berlin and of Germany — thank you for this extraordinarily warm welcome. In fact, it's so warm and I feel so good that I'm actually going to take off my jacket, and anybody else who wants to, feel free to. We can be a little more informal among friends.
As your Chancellor mentioned, five years ago I had the privilege to address this city as senator. Today, I'm proud to return as President of the United States. And I bring with me the enduring friendship of the American people, as well as my wife, Michelle, and Malia and Sasha. You may notice that they're not here. The last thing they want to do is to listen to another speech from me. So they're out experiencing the beauty and the history of Berlin. And this history speaks to us today.
Here, for thousands of years, the people of this land have journeyed from tribe to principality to nation-state; through Reformation and Enlightenment, renowned as a "land of poets and thinkers," among them Immanuel Kant, who taught us that freedom is the "unoriginated birthright of man, and it belongs to him by force of his humanity."
Here, for two centuries, this gate stood tall as the world around it convulsed — through the rise and fall of empires; through revolutions and republics; art and music and science that reflected the height of human endeavor, but also war and carnage that exposed the depths of man's cruelty to man.
It was here that Berliners carved out an island of democracy against the greatest of odds. As has already been mentioned, they were supported by an airlift of hope, and we are so honored to be joined by Colonel Halvorsen, 92 years old — the original "candy bomber." We could not be prouder of him. I hope I look that good, by the way, when I'm 92.
During that time, a Marshall Plan seeded a miracle, and a North Atlantic Alliance protected our people. And those in the neighborhoods and nations to the East drew strength from the knowledge that freedom was possible here, in Berlin — that the waves of crackdowns and suppressions might therefore someday be overcome.
Today, 60 years after they rose up against oppression, we remember the East German heroes of June 17th. When the wall finally came down, it was their dreams that were fulfilled. Their strength and their passion, their enduring example remind us that for all the power of militaries, for all the authority of governments, it is citizens who choose whether to be defined by a wall, or whether to tear it down.
And we're now surrounded by the symbols of a Germany reborn. A rebuilt Reichstag and its glistening glass dome. An American embassy back at its historic home on Pariser Platz. And this square itself, once a desolate no man's land, is now open to all. So while I am not the first American President to come to this gate, I am proud to stand on its Eastern side to pay tribute to the past.
For throughout all this history, the fate of this city came down to a simple question: Will we live free or in chains? Under governments that uphold our universal rights, or regimes that suppress them? In open societies that respect the sanctity of the individual and our free will, or in closed societies that suffocate the soul?
As free peoples, we stated our convictions long ago. As Americans, we believe that "all men are created equal" with the right to life and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And as Germans, you declared in your Basic Law that "the dignity of man is inviolable." Around the world, nations have pledged themselves to a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which recognizes the inherent dignity and rights of all members of our human family.
And this is what was at stake here in Berlin all those years. And because courageous crowds climbed atop that wall, because corrupt dictatorships gave way to new democracies, because millions across this continent now breathe the fresh air of freedom, we can say, here in Berlin, here in Europe — our values won. Openness won. Tolerance won. And freedom won here in Berlin.
And yet, more than two decades after that triumph, we must acknowledge that there can, at times, be a complacency among our Western democracies. Today, people often come together in places like this to remember history — not to make it. After all, we face no concrete walls, no barbed wire. There are no tanks poised across a border. There are no visits to fallout shelters. And so sometimes there can be a sense that the great challenges have somehow passed. And that brings with it a temptation to turn inward — to think of our own pursuits, and not the sweep of history; to believe that we've settled history's accounts, that we can simply enjoy the fruits won by our forebears.
But I come here today, Berlin, to say complacency is not the character of great nations. Today's threats are not as stark as they were half a century ago, but the struggle for freedom and security and human dignity — that struggle goes on. And I've come here, to this city of hope, because the tests of our time demand the same fighting spirit that defined Berlin a half-century ago.
Chancellor Merkel mentioned that we mark the anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's stirring defense of freedom, embodied in the people of this great city. His pledge of solidarity — "Ich bin ein Berliner" echoes through the ages. But that's not all that he said that day. Less remembered is the challenge that he issued to the crowd before him: "Let me ask you," he said to those Berliners, "let me ask you to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today" and "beyond the freedom of merely this city." Look, he said, "to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind."
President Kennedy was taken from us less than six months after he spoke those words. And like so many who died in those decades of division, he did not live to see Berlin united and free. Instead, he lives forever as a young man in our memory. But his words are timeless because they call upon us to care more about things than just our own self-comfort, about our own city, about our own country. They demand that we embrace the common endeavor of all humanity.
And if we lift our eyes, as President Kennedy called us to do, then we'll recognize that our work is not yet done. For we are not only citizens of America or Germany — we are also citizens of the world. And our fates and fortunes are linked like never before.
We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation, but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe. We may strike blows against terrorist networks, but if we ignore the instability and intolerance that fuels extremism, our own freedom will eventually be endangered. We may enjoy a standard of living that is the envy of the world, but so long as hundreds of millions endure the agony of an empty stomach or the anguish of unemployment, we're not truly prosperous.
I say all this here, in the heart of Europe, because our shared past shows that none of these challenges can be met unless we see ourselves as part of something bigger than our own experience. Our alliance is the foundation of global security. Our trade and our commerce is the engine of our global economy. Our values call upon us to care about the lives of people we will never meet. When Europe and America lead with our hopes instead of our fears, we do things that no other nations can do, no other nations will do. So we have to lift up our eyes today and consider the day of peace with justice that our generation wants for this world.
I'd suggest that peace with justice begins with the example we set here at home, for we know from our own histories that intolerance breeds injustice. Whether it's based on race, or religion, gender or sexual orientation, we are stronger when all our people — no matter who they are or what they look like — are granted opportunity, and when our wives and our daughters have the same opportunities as our husbands and our sons.
When we respect the faiths practiced in our churches and synagogues, our mosques and our temples, we're more secure. When we welcome the immigrant with his talents or her dreams, we are renewed. When we stand up for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters and treat their love and their rights equally under the law, we defend our own liberty as well. We are more free when all people can pursue their own happiness. And as long as walls exist in our hearts to separate us from those who don't look like us, or think like us, or worship as we do, then we're going to have to work harder, together, to bring those walls of division down.
Peace with justice means free enterprise that unleashes the talents and creativity that reside in each of us; in other models, direct economic growth from the top down or relies solely on the resources extracted from the earth. But we believe that real prosperity comes from our most precious resource — our people. And that's why we choose to invest in education, and science and research.
And now, as we emerge from recession, we must not avert our eyes from the insult of widening inequality, or the pain of youth who are unemployed. We have to build new ladders of opportunity in our own societies that — even as we pursue new trade and investment that fuels growth across the Atlantic.
America will stand with Europe as you strengthen your union. And we want to work with you to make sure that every person can enjoy the dignity that comes from work — whether they live in Chicago or Cleveland or Belfast or Berlin, in Athens or Madrid, everybody deserves opportunity. We have to have economies that are working for all people, not just those at the very top.
Peace with justice means extending a hand to those who reach for freedom, wherever they live. Different peoples and cultures will follow their own path, but we must reject the lie that those who live in distant places don't yearn for freedom and self-determination just like we do; that they don't somehow yearn for dignity and rule of law just like we do. We cannot dictate the pace of change in places like the Arab world, but we must reject the excuse that we can do nothing to support it.
We cannot shrink from our role of advancing the values we believe in — whether it's supporting Afghans as they take responsibility for their future, or working for an Israeli-Palestinian peace or engaging as we've done in Burma to help create space for brave people to emerge from decades of dictatorship. In this century, these are the citizens who long to join the free world. They are who you were. They deserve our support, for they too, in their own way, are citizens of Berlin. And we have to help them every day.
Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons — no matter how distant that dream may be. And so, as President, I've strengthened our efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and reduced the number and role of America's nuclear weapons. Because of the New START Treaty, we're on track to cut American and Russian deployed nuclear warheads to their lowest levels since the 1950s.
But we have more work to do. So today, I'm announcing additional steps forward. After a comprehensive review, I've determined that we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third. And I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures.
At the same time, we'll work with our NATO allies to seek bold reductions in U.S. and Russian tactical weapons in Europe. And we can forge a new international framework for peaceful nuclear power, and reject the nuclear weaponization that North Korea and Iran may be seeking.
America will host a summit in 2016 to continue our efforts to secure nuclear materials around the world, and we will work to build support in the United States to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, and call on all nations to begin negotiations on a treaty that ends the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. These are steps we can take to create a world of peace with justice.
Peace with justice means refusing to condemn our children to a harsher, less hospitable planet. The effort to slow climate change requires bold action. And on this, Germany and Europe have led.
In the United States, we have recently doubled our renewable energy from clean sources like wind and solar power. We're doubling fuel efficiency on our cars. Our dangerous carbon emissions have come down. But we know we have to do more — and we will do more.
With a global middle class consuming more energy every day, this must now be an effort of all nations, not just some. For the grim alternative affects all nations — more severe storms, more famine and floods, new waves of refugees, coastlines that vanish, oceans that rise. This is the future we must avert. This is the global threat of our time. And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate before it is too late. That is our job. That is our task. We have to get to work.
Peace with justice means meeting our moral obligations. And we have a moral obligation and a profound interest in helping lift the impoverished corners of the world. By promoting growth so we spare a child born today a lifetime of extreme poverty. By investing in agriculture, so we aren't just sending food, but also teaching farmers to grow food. By strengthening public health, so we're not just sending medicine, but training doctors and nurses who will help end the outrage of children dying from preventable diseases. Making sure that we do everything we can to realize the promise — an achievable promise — of the first AIDS-free generation. That is something that is possible if we feel a sufficient sense of urgency.
Our efforts have to be about more than just charity. They're about new models of empowering people — to build institutions; to abandon the rot of corruption; to create ties of trade, not just aid, both with the West and among the nations they're seeking to rise and increase their capacity. Because when they succeed, we will be more successful as well. Our fates are linked, and we cannot ignore those who are yearning not only for freedom but also prosperity.
And finally, let's remember that peace with justice depends on our ability to sustain both the security of our societies and the openness that defines them. Threats to freedom don't merely come from the outside. They can emerge from within — from our own fears, from the disengagement of our citizens.
For over a decade, America has been at war. Yet much has now changed over the five years since I last spoke here in Berlin. The Iraq war is now over. The Afghan war is coming to an end. Osama bin Laden is no more. Our efforts against al Qaeda are evolving.
And given these changes, last month, I spoke about America's efforts against terrorism. And I drew inspiration from one of our founding fathers, James Madison, who wrote, "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare." James Madison is right — which is why, even as we remain vigilant about the threat of terrorism, we must move beyond a mindset of perpetual war. And in America, that means redoubling our efforts to close the prison at Guantanamo. It means tightly controlling our use of new technologies like drones. It means balancing the pursuit of security with the protection of privacy.
And I'm confident that that balance can be struck. I'm confident of that, and I'm confident that working with Germany, we can keep each other safe while at the same time maintaining those essential values for which we fought for.
Our current programs are bound by the rule of law, and they're focused on threats to our security — not the communications of ordinary persons. They help confront real dangers, and they keep people safe here in the United States and here in Europe. But we must accept the challenge that all of us in democratic governments face: to listen to the voices who disagree with us; to have an open debate about how we use our powers and how we must constrain them; and to always remember that government exists to serve the power of the individual, and not the other way around. That's what makes us who we are, and that's what makes us different from those on the other side of the wall.
That is how we'll stay true to our better history while reaching for the day of peace and justice that is to come. These are the beliefs that guide us, the values that inspire us, the principles that bind us together as free peoples who still believe the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
And we should ask, should anyone ask if our generation has the courage to meet these tests? If anybody asks if President Kennedy's words ring true today, let them come to Berlin, for here they will find the people who emerged from the ruins of war to reap the blessings of peace; from the pain of division to the joy of reunification. And here, they will recall how people trapped behind a wall braved bullets, and jumped barbed wire, and dashed across minefields, and dug through tunnels, and leapt from buildings, and swam across the Spree to claim their most basic right of freedom.
The wall belongs to history. But we have history to make as well. And the heroes that came before us now call to us to live up to those highest ideals — to care for the young people who can't find a job in our own countries, and the girls who aren't allowed to go to school overseas; to be vigilant in safeguarding our own freedoms, but also to extend a hand to those who are reaching for freedom abroad.
This is the lesson of the ages. This is the spirit of Berlin. And the greatest tribute that we can pay to those who came before us is by carrying on their work to pursue peace and justice not only in our countries but for all mankind.
Vielen Dank. God bless you. God bless the peoples of Germany. And God bless the United States of America. Thank you very much.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.